Texas abounds with vast amounts of parks for families to enjoy throughout the year. In this series, we’re going to look at some of the best parks the Lone Star State has to offer, from small local parks to sprawling state and national park facilities. Let’s get out and explore this great state of ours. First up: East Texas!
1) The Children’s Park of Tyler
“There is no foot so small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.” After the death of their middle child at birth, the Carson family helped create a place of both peace and fun for others in memory of their son, Braden. The park was completed in 2004 without raising a single tax dollar and was generously donated to the city of Tyler.
Today, The Children’s Park not only offers a place of solace for those that seek comfort but also gives a place of celebration from family picnics to bigger events such as weddings. Every year The Children’s Park hosts an annual Teddy Bear Picnic where families enjoy face-painting, music, story time, and of course a picnic complete with their favorite teddy bear. Mrs. Carson holds a Day of Remembrance celebration once a year, and once a month holds a support group called Glory Babies at The Children’s Park.
One thing noticeable at first is the lack of playground equipment. The Carsons believe that natural play is a lost art, and that children need to be given an opportunity to explore and use their imagination.
The park has grown so much since 2004 that the City of Tyler has donated additional land as well as matched funds to help with the park’s expansion. The new expansion of the park features a secluded meditation garden, an additional play place, and an additional indoor and outdoor space that will allow the community to hosts larger events. Even if it isn’t on their annual Teddy Bear Picnic, you and your family can always enjoy an impromptu teddy bear picnic or tea party of your own!
2) Caddo Lake State Park
This hidden gem nestled in Karnack, TX was the only natural lake in the state until it was artificially dammed in the early 1900s. Visitors can now enjoy an array of outdoor activities from boating, fishing, and camping, to hiking, general nature study, and enjoying the rich history of the area at the park’s headquarters.
Caddo Lake covers over 26,000 acres of swampland. The natural inhabitants that call Caddo Lake home include 71 different species of fish, making this a top vacation spot for your avid fisherman. The naturalist in your family will enjoy being able to spot beavers, minks, white-tailed deer, raccoons, snakes, alligators, and many other wildlife. The cabins, originally built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, make camping easy and fun for the whole family. While the park is open daily, the busiest time of the year is March through November. The cost for adults is $3 a day, while children 12 and under are free.
3) Spring Hill / Neal McCoy / AMBUCS Too Universally Accessible Playground in Longview
Country music and playgrounds don’t normally go hand in hand unless you are Neal McCoy. As the founder of East Texas Angel Network, McCoy picked Longview to build a new playground, after winning the Home Depot Humanitarian Award in 2005. AMBUCS Too Longview, a local group, raised more than $350,000 to help expand the Neal McCoy Park. The expansion makes the park one of the largest approved by the Americans with Disabilities Act in East Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. The 5,605 square foot playground allows all children to play together with a fully accessible playground. The Spring Hill Park also includes a splash pad and pavilion for the family to enjoy.
4) Riverside Park & Rose Garden in Victoria
Enjoy a multitude of outdoor activities at the 562-acre park that shares its borders with over 4 miles of the Guadalupe River. Riverside Park is a great choice for a small family outing or a much larger gathering since they offer 200 picnic areas.
At Riverside Park you can spend the day playing baseball, disc golf, or just wandering the trails. If those aren’t up your alley, you can use one of the canoe or kayak paddling trails instead. See over 1,000 rose bushes at the Rose Garden weaving around a gazebo and water fountain. The smaller members of the family will enjoy the duck pond and the adventurous playground.
5) Jack Mann Splash Pad in Longview
During the summer months of Texas, there is only one way to get relief from the sweltering heat: splash pads! Jack Mann Splash Pad is a Texas-sized pad at 10,000 sq. ft. of summer wonder, and it’s the largest splash pad in East Texas! The park boasts two pavilions, tons of water spouts, restrooms, parking lot, and 3 themed areas. It costs $1 per child and $2 per adult for Longview residents to enter, and $1 more for non-residents. What says Texas more then getting water dumped on you by a giant Dr. Pepper water sprayer?
What are your favorite parks to visit in East Texas? Share with us in the comments!